Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Intoxication of a Lifetime

A man who has known the sea is bound to it forever. This is a paraphrase of DR Sherman's famous quote from his book "Brothers of the Sea". How can the sea bound a man forever? How can a man be married to the sea?

The theme of being bound to the sea is ancient in literature. There is a whole genre of sea stories the most famous writer of which is Joseph Conrad. The sea in it's waves and tides exerts a strong pull on a man or woman. The struggles and caresses are etched on the face and on the soul.

I have a copy of one of the latest book of the marine biologist Trevor Norton entitled "Underwater to get out of the Rain, A love affair with the Sea" Norton tells the tale of how he became a marine biologist. Like all of us in this business, it started when we were small children.

Norton remembers living on the coast and dreaming of the shores beyond the horizon. As salts like us are always observant, he noted the pull and push of the tides and this is when he felt the pull. Then he searched for that perfect shore and gaze into the tidepools.

John Steinbeck also felt the pull and the oneness with the animals of the tidepools and the reefs. And with a host of other people who had fallen in love with the sea.

In my case I remember the day when that happened. I was three and my dad brought me out to sea. Gazing into the water I saw the brightly coloured fish. On the beach I was amazed when I saw my first hermit crab coming out of the sand.

I have been caught. And I began my own love affair with the ocean. Later on I would be on ships, seeing a glimpse of the whales, the sharks, the dorados and whilst underwater the colours of the reefs.

Tragedies I beheld also. The blasted corals, their bleached skeletons, butchered mantas, dolphins and whales. Perhaps the greatest tragedy I beheld was to see people dead as a result of our disrespect for the living world.

But what it is to love but to seek the perfect in the imperfect? I still seek that perfect shore. Perhaps I have waded ashore on it. And on my saddest days the blue horizon never fails to suppress my wonder.

As Trevor Norton writes "Once you have a taste for the sea, the intoxication lasts a lifetime"


kulas said...

I spent many summers vacationing at my mother's island province in the visayas. What else but swimming was the popular pastime. There, of course, is where I first learned to swim. My uncle taught me. He chased me around the pantalan and when he caught me, threw me over to the water where I struggled, gulping bucketsful of sea water, until I finally, by sheer instinct for survival, learned to swim, doggie style!

At night we combed the seashore, ‘petromax’ lamps in hand, fishing for whatever wonderful gastronomic sea treasures we could find. Not much excitement like that in Joseph Conrad's novels one might say, but for a nine year old in a faraway place in the boondocks, devoid of any basic modern convenience (like electricity, for example) is enough to make even going to the bath house in the middle of the night as challenging as defending a fort against restless natives.

The sea was our source of entertainment, food, adventure and wonder. That was many years ago. Now, seemingly forever a city dweller, married with children much older than that nine year old boy that I was, I ask: Am I attached to sea? Does it beckon?

Ya betcha!

blackshama said...

You and I have been caught by the sirens (or is it dugongs?)